Tuesday, July 5, 2011

An alternative approach to selective college admissions

Suppose highly selective colleges took a different approach to admissions. Rather than taking the "best" 6.2% of applicants (Harvard for the class of 2015), they might pre-select the top 15% or 20% who met a certain minimum standard (albeit a high one). Then from that pool they would select the students whose lives would benefit most from a Harvard education.

The rich and privileged are going to be rich and privileged no matter which college they attend. The scrappy underdogs, on the other hand, could see a real difference.

Obviously, no highly selective institution would switch to this approach exclusively. Perhaps they could reserve a third of their places for these candidates, or just have it as a substantially weighted factor in the overall equation.

All this ignores the question of whether the emperor has clothes, whether an education at a so-called top tier school is really worth what we think it's worth. Whatever you think the right answer is to that question, there are interesting implications of following this method.

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